Lovely Little Secretary Desk { Furniture Makeover }

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It’s been one c-razy week!  The stomach bug hit my family this past Monday, so I had to set down my computer and paint brush to be on full-time standby in the event of a you-know-what episode. Ughh. So far my husband and I have managed to escape it, but you never know when it might hit. It happens to our family at least once every winter;  I think that is probably normal for most people with elementary-age children.

So . . . it is what it is.  I wanted to get this project done sooner and posted sooner, but duty called and my “Mom Hat” was set squarely on my head this week.

In some ways, I am thankful for weeks like this because they force me to slow down.  In between the you-know-what episodes there is a lot of holding and comforting that goes on, which makes for some sweet time with my growing boys.

Enough about that though . . . I was finally able this weekend to finish up the makeover of this lovely little antique secretary desk I found a local flea market.

milk paint secretary

I loved it from the moment I laid eyes on it–the curved legs and feet, the small bottom shelf, the thin, curved-front drawer! It was pretty sturdy and in decent shape for its age, but the wood was just so dry and dull.  It desperately needed a little freshening up.

I found evidence inside the desk that it had a former life in pink . . . Someone had worked really hard to strip it all down! I always feel a little bad when I paint over wood someone before me has stripped, but not bad enough to leave it alone 🙂


Since this piece already had that rustic, primitive look, milk paint was the obvious choice for me.  Milk paint is by far my favorite paint to use for primitive furniture pieces.  It does a great job of letting the natural wood grain show through and tends to look more authentically “old” than does chalk paint.

I had a bag of MMS Milk Paint in Typewriter (aka “Black”) on hand, so that’s what I used for the exterior of the desk (always the frugal one–use what you have first!).

I’m not a big fan of using black when repainting large furniture pieces, because I feel that large black furnishings tend to swallow up all of the light in a space.  This desk is quite petite though, so the black wouldn’t be overpowering and would help add some sophistication to the piece.

The secretary desk also needed some hardware, and I was thrilled to find a set of 3 antique brass pulls in my excess hardware bag (TIP–never throw away the hardware you take off of a furniture piece!). A good soak and scrub in vinegar shined them right up.

And as we all know, in when repainting furniture, the before and after are always the best part. So, here is the “new” secretary desk . . .

secretary desk furniture makeover

secretary desk furniture makeover

secretary desk furniture makeover

The milk paint did exactly what I wanted it to do . . . soaking right into the dry wood and acting almost more like a stain than a paint.  I only painted one coat so the wood grain would be able to show through well.

A coating of MMS Hemp Oil sealed the paint and brought out the depth of the finish.  It was my first time using her Hemp Oil product, and I think it is a perfect partner to the darker milk paint.  I have had trouble with wax streaking on dark milk paint, but the Hemp Oil soaked right in and left the perfect, subtle luster.

secretary desk furniture makeover

See all of that beautiful wood grain?

I wanted the inside of the piece to be a little more exciting, so it got two coats of MMS Milk Paint in Apron Strings.

secretary desk furniture makeover

My first round photographing this desk was during a period of strong sunlight, which isn’t the best for clean photos.  I really liked the look though of the sunlight coming in on the desk interior, so I threw this one in 🙂

milk paint secretary

Conveniently enough, the set of pigeon holes was a separate piece from the main body of the desk.  I have painted a secretary before  where the pigeon holes were screwed into the desk and it took a good bit of work getting them in an out.  I was thankful this set just sad inside the desk–no awkwardly angled screws to deal with.

And speaking of my other secretary desk makeover, I learned in that process that painting pigeon holes is about the least fun thing you can imagine. It is a total, royal pain.  This set was made from the same oak as the desk, but was just as dry.  I thought rather than that painting it I would oil it up with a 3:1 mineral oil and vinegar mix (see more about how this works here).DSC04400

I am continually amazed with how easy this process is and how drastically it changes the appearance of the wood.


Just dip a cloth in your mixture, and rub it on the wood–so simple.  You can see that even just the oil and vinegar dripping down onto the wood will make it come back to life.


My husband came home and asked, “Did you stain that?”  Nope.  Just rubbed oil and vinegar on it 🙂   Isn’t it beautiful?

I am happy with the “new” desk.  I hope it finds a nice home, tucked away in a quiet corner or standing proud as an entryway feature.  Either way is fine with me, as long as it is enjoyed.

milk paint secretary

Linking up to:   Wow Us Wednesdays,  Furniture Feature Friday,

Milk Paint Masterpiece Monday

Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint, My Take | Lost & Found

Monday 8th of August 2016

[…] Typewriter with Apron String interior Oak Secretary […]


Friday 23rd of January 2015

I love how this piece turned out. Congratulations on a beautiful transformation!


Monday 26th of January 2015

Thank you Dorene :)

Cynthia - Clockwork Interiors

Tuesday 20th of January 2015

Love everything about it, but I think the Apron Strings inside is my favorite. Super transformation!


Wednesday 21st of January 2015

Thank you Cynthia. Apron Strings is a beautiful color. I'm excited to use it again.

Mary @ Orphans With Makeup

Monday 19th of January 2015

I love the way the grain shows through. Great transformation.


Tuesday 20th of January 2015

Thank you Mary. I think the grain is my favorite part.

Susie @ The Chelsea Project Blog

Monday 19th of January 2015

Love it! Wish I lived close enough to buy it...I'd love to give it a well deserved home.


Tuesday 20th of January 2015

Thank you Susie . . . wish I could click my ruby slipper heels and send it your way :)

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